Guest article by Julia Neubing, former intern at vista verde tours,
she reports about the carnival in Mindelo
"Mindelo is like a tiny Brazil"
In this quote, the famous singer Cesária Évora refers to the Carnival in Mindelo, the largest and most famous among the Cape Verdean islands. Of course, Mindelo ‘s carnival is not at all comparable to the Samba carnival in Brazil, but definitely in the running due to its cultural richness.
After three years of restrictions, Mindelo was finally ready to celebrate the colourful festivities in the streets again. To get in the mood for the carnival days in advance, the first parades in the streets of the city start already in January. The Mandinga groups parade through the houses every Sunday from January on accompanied by crowds of people and drumming. Mandingas are an ethnic group from Western African countries like Senegal and the Gambia. Painted with oil and tar and equipped with sisal skirts and spears, they dress up as Mandinga warriors. The perfect prelude to a carnival week full of infectiously good-humoured and party-loving people.
The carnival starts on Friday and Saturday with all the parades of the various schools and the University of Mindelo. Sunday belongs to the Mandingas as in the weeks before, but this time there are more Mandinga parades from the different parts of the city. So, it is possible at any time of the day to participate in one of the parades and be carried away by the drums and the energy and the positive mood of the people.
Monday evening, the prelude to the big main event on Tuesday: the parade of the "Escola de Samba Tropical". Countless dancers in elaborate artistic costumes dance to the samba music of a band that accompanies them on a large decorated float. Cabo Verde lives up to its reputation again this evening, as the first dancers show up on Mindelo's main street two hours after scheduled time. However, as we all know, good things take time and the spectacle is worth every minute of patience.
Whoever thought on Monday that the city could not be more crowded, will be amazed on Tuesday. All the roadsides are full of people, on all the balconies of the surrounding houses people are standing and even in some trees you can see one or the other sitting. Everyone tries to catch the best view for the day of the big competition. The four carnival groups Flores do Mindelo, Estrela do Mar, Cruzeiros do Norte and Monte Sossego from the different parts of the city compete against each other. The parades of talented samba dancers with their impressively designed floats continue into the night. The groups choose a theme and build a "sub-theme" for each team within the group to present during the parade. The carnival groups can include up to 900 people, which explains the length of the event. For the competition, the queen and king of each group are looked at, as well as the charisma, costumes and performance of the dancers. Overall, with the music and the design of the floats, the complete package has to be right.
On Wednesday, the inhabitants of Mindelo gathered again in front of the big stage on the main street Rua d'Lisboa for the award ceremony. Among a lot of categories, the prizes are awarded, until in the end, amid thunderous applause, the group Monte Sossego was chosen as the winner of Carnival 2023 and performs its final show.
However, this is not the end of the Carnival in Mindelo – this will take place the following Sunday. This is another Sunday dedicated to the Mandingas of Ribeira Bote. Thousands of people gather together one last time to participate in the big parade, which is called the "Funeral of the Carnival". In this final carnival parade, where there is also a big truck on which a band plays to give the huge crowd one last memory of an incredible carnival season....